Priest v. Polk

Decision Date07 December 1995
Docket NumberNo. 95-1197,95-1197
Citation322 Ark. 673,912 S.W.2d 902
PartiesSharon PRIEST, Secretary of State, and Jimmie Lou Fisher, Treasurer, Appellants/Cross-Appellees, Marilyn M. Zornik, Natural Guardian and Next Friend of Anna Margaret Zornik, a Minor, Intervenor, v. Jennifer POLK and Randall L. Bynum, On Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated, Appellees/Cross-Appellants, Steve Clark, Intervenor.
CourtArkansas Supreme Court

Tim Humphries, Deputy Atty. General, Little Rock, for appellants.

Ann Purvis, Little Rock, for Sharon Priest, Secretary of State.

Vincent C. Henderson, II, Little Rock, Amicus Curiae.

Scott Trotter, Richard B. Adkisson, Larry Page, R. Gunner DeLay, Little Rock, for appellees.

CORBIN, Justice.

Appellants, Secretary of State Sharon Priest and State Treasurer Jimmie Lou Fisher, appeal the order of the Pulaski County Chancery Court declaring void Acts 1 and 2 of the First Extraordinary Session of 1995, and enjoining the December 12, 1995 special election called by Governor Jim Guy Tucker pursuant to the Acts. Appellees, Jennifer Polk and Randall L. Bynum, and Intervenor Steve Clark, as citizens, residents, taxpayers, and qualified voters of this state, have cross-appealed. Jurisdiction of this appeal is properly in this court as the constitutionality of legislative acts is challenged. Ark.Sup.Ct.R. 1-2(a)(3).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Act 1 of the First Extraordinary Session of 1995 established procedures for calling a constitutional convention subject to ratification by the people of the State of Arkansas, for drafting a new constitution, and for submitting a proposed new constitution to the voters. Act 2 of the First Extraordinary Session of 1995 appropriated $1,100,000.00 from the State Central Services Fund to finance the convention and pay expenses of delegates. Both acts contained emergency clauses stating they would be effective from the date of passage and approval. The acts were approved by the Governor on October 19, 1995.

Pursuant to Act 1, the Governor issued a proclamation providing a filing period from October 23, 1995, through November 2, 1995, for persons desiring to be elected delegates to the convention. The Governor's proclamation also set December 12, 1995, as the date for the statewide special election for ratification of the call of the convention and election of thirty-five convention delegates from existing state Senate districts. Also pursuant to Act 1, the President Pro Tempore of the Arkansas Senate and the Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives nominated ten senators and sixteen representatives as delegates to the convention. According to the proposed ballot form in Section 4 of Act 1, the names of these twenty-six appointed delegates would appear on the ballot form for the voters to approve as a block of delegates along with the call of the convention.

Appellees filed a complaint in chancery court on October 24, 1995, seeking a declaration that Acts 1 and 2 were encroachments on the rights of the people in a manner prohibited by Article 2, §§ 1 and 29 of the Arkansas Constitution of 1874 ("the Arkansas Constitution"), challenging the emergency clauses of Acts 1 and 2, and challenging the ballot form proposed in section 4. The complaint alleged that, due to the foregoing violations, any public funds expended on the election or convention would result in an illegal exaction pursuant to Article 16, § 13 of the Arkansas Constitution. The complaint also sought injunctions to restrain appellant Priest from certifying the ballot title or the name of any delegate on the December 12, 1995 special election ballot, to restrain appellant Priest from certifying the results of the December 12, 1995 special election if it is held, and to restrain the expenditure of public funds for the special election on December 12, 1995, for the convention, and for the publication of any document proposed by the convention.

On November 13, 1995, the chancellor granted the motion to intervene of Intervenor Clark. Intervenor Clark's motion sought intervention as a taxpayer and voter for the purpose of addressing an additional argument with respect to the constitutionality of the challenged legislation. Specifically, Intervenor Clark contends Act 1's procedure for selecting the twenty-six appointed delegates to the proposed convention violates the one-person, one-vote principle.

On November 16, 1995, the chancellor granted the motion to intervene of Intervenor Marilyn M. Zornik, as natural guardian and next friend of Anna Margaret Zornik, a minor. Anna Margaret Zornik is diagnosed with Down's syndrome and receives health care services under this state's federally-funded Medicaid program. Intervenor Zornik sought intervention for the purpose of developing the record as regards the effect of the chancellor's order upon her ability to protect her daughter's entitlement to continued Medicaid services, in light of the recent judicial invalidation of Amendment 68 to the Arkansas Constitution on supremacy clause grounds. Little Rock Family Planning Servs., P.A. v. Dalton, 860 F.Supp. 609 (E.D.Ark.1994), aff'd, 60 F.3d 497 (8th Cir.1995). Specifically, Intervenor Zornik contends the December 12 election should proceed.

On November 13, 1995, appellant Priest certified the ballot for the special election of December 12, 1995.

The parties and chancellor agreed to an expedited proceeding in the chancery court. They submitted the case to the chancellor on stipulated facts. The parties also stipulated that subject-matter jurisdiction existed in the chancery court. The chancellor held a hearing on November 14, 1995, and, in a ruling from the bench, found merit only in appellees' allegation that the emergency clause was invalid for failure to state facts constituting an emergency. The chancellor found that, due to time limitations expressed in Act 1, the invalid emergency clause rendered the entire act void. The chancellor therefore determined an illegal exaction would result if funds were expended for the election on December 12, 1995, and enjoined the election by written order entered on November 17, 1995. This appeal and cross-appeal are from that order.

We granted the parties' motions to expedite this appeal, and we allowed Vincent C. Henderson, II, a candidate for delegate to the proposed convention, to file a brief as amicus curiae in support of appellants. By per curiam order filed on November 28, 1995, we granted appellants' motion to stay enforcement of the chancellor's order pending this appeal.

SUBJECT-MATTER JURISDICTION

The parties stipulated that chancery court had subject-matter jurisdiction of this case pursuant to Article 7 of the Arkansas Constitution and Ark.Code Ann. § 16-13-304 (Repl.1994). It is well-settled that subject-matter jurisdiction cannot be waived and cannot be invoked by consent of the parties. Ark. Dep't of Human Servs. v. Estate of Hogan, 314 Ark. 19, 858 S.W.2d 105 (1993). A court has a duty to determine if it has subject-matter jurisdiction of the case before it. Skelton v. City of Atkins, 317 Ark. 28, 875 S.W.2d 504 (1994). When the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction, the appellate court also lacks jurisdiction. First Pyramid Life Ins. Co. v. Reed, 247 Ark. 1003, 449 S.W.2d 178 (1970). Accordingly, the question of subject-matter jurisdiction is one that this court is obligated to raise on its own. Id.

Our review of the case law on this issue leads us to conclude that the question of subject-matter jurisdiction is determined by the characterization of the case. When a case is characterized as one involving political rights, this court has held that jurisdiction lies exclusively in circuit court. Catlett v. Republican Party of Arkansas, 242 Ark. 283, 413 S.W.2d 651 (1967); see Walls v. Brundidge, 109 Ark. 250, 160 S.W. 230 (1913) (quoting In re Sawyer, 124 U.S. 200, 8 S.Ct. 482, 31 L.Ed. 402 on the distinction between political rights, defined as those which involve the power to participate directly and indirectly in the establishment or management of government, and civil rights, defined as those which consist in the power to acquire and enjoy property). However, when a case is characterized as an illegal-exaction case, we have held that jurisdiction lies concurrently in chancery and circuit courts because the constitution does not assign jurisdiction of illegal-exaction cases. Foster v. Jefferson Co. Quorum Court, 321 Ark. 105, 901 S.W.2d 809, supp. op. granting reh'g on other grounds, 321 Ark. 117-A, 906 S.W.2d 314 (1995). While the concurrence characterizes this case as one involving political rights solely cognizable in circuit court, such a view overlooks other allegations in the complaint, such as the challenge to the emergency clause and the challenge to the ballot title or ballot form. We have addressed challenges to emergency clauses, ballot titles, and ballot forms that were brought in chancery court. McCuen v. Harris, 321 Ark. 458, 902 S.W.2d 793 (1995) (addressing ballot-title challenge); Burroughs v. Ingram, 319 Ark. 530, 893 S.W.2d 319 (1995) (addressing emergency-clause challenge); Riviere v. Wells, 270 Ark. 206, 604 S.W.2d 560 (1980) (addressing challenge to ballot form for submission of proposed constitution of 1980).

It is well-settled that when a court of equity acquires jurisdiction for one purpose, it retains jurisdiction for all purposes, provided the original object of the suit is clearly within equity's jurisdiction and there is no adequate remedy at law. Dugan v. Cureton, 1 Ark. 31 (1837). This is an expression of equity's "clean-up" doctrine. However, this court has held that when a suit includes a request for an injunction to prevent an illegal exaction, the adequacy of the legal remedy is immaterial because Article 16, § 13 of the Arkansas Constitution itself confers the right to an injunction with respect to an illegal exaction. Townes v. McCollum, 221 Ark. 920, 256 S.W.2d 716 (1953). On...

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